Saturday, December 5, 2009
In an extravanganza featuring contemporary and traditional african dancers, South African world music star Johnny Clegg, and African sports stars such as Makhaya Ntini, Haile Gebreselassie and, erm, David Beckham, the draw was made for the 2010 World Cup this morning in Capetown.
Here's the song Johnny Clegg did live at the show for you to listen to while you read the rest of this post. I'm not really a fan of Clegg but I thought this was quite catchy, and 'the Scatterlings of Africa' is a nice poetic phrase:
Here is the full draw for South Africa 2010:
For New Zealand Group F will be tough, but as rank outsiders every group looks tough. The top seed in Group F is Italy, and they are the current World Champions. It is unlikely we will ambush them like we did in the 2009 Confederation's Cup warm up match when New Zealand took the lead an incredible three times over Italy before sanity was restored and Italy stumbled home 4-3 winners. The circumstances will be quite different next time we meet.
Paraguay finished third in South American qualifying, racking up wins over Brazil and Argentina. Slovakia finished top of UEFA Group 3, knocking out their former siamese twin and past-powerhouse Czech Republic in the process.
Which group will pick up the inevitable Group of Death tag? On face value it has to be either Group B or Group G. Group G has the mouth watering colonial battle between Brazil and Portugal, dark horse Cote d'Ivoire and complete unknowns North Korea. Group B has African aristocrats Nigeria, the unpredictable Greece, workhorse South Korea and the always competitive Argentina. I also think Australia got a very tough draw in Group D. It could be the turn of the Black Stars of Ghana to shine into the quarter-finals, and Germany are always there at the business end of a FIFA World Cup.
The draw ceremony itself was good fun and made for great television with some hugely (unintentional) comical moments. Draw assistant Charlize Theron was doing her utmost to wind up FIFA General Secretary Jerome Valcke, undercutting the pomposity of the ceremony with faux-naive freestyles and stage whispers. The tension between the two was palpable, FIFA brass obviously worried that Charlize was going to turn into a rampaging mad-libbing monster on them, and pull another stunt like pretending to draw out 'Ireland' from the bowl as she did in the rehearsal.
The loudest guffaw was reserved for poor old confused Sepp Blatter who forgot where the first game was being played and had to have the host, Carol Manana, remind him. For the amount of money he's paid you'd expect him to be completely savvy about his product.
It was a far cry from the last time New Zealand was at a draw ceremony. Apparently the 1982 draw in Spain was thrown into a complete farce when a revolting machine spat the balls all over the floor. This stressed out the FIFA staff, who in turn made the poor Spanish kids, who were roped in to provide the cute factor, cry.
The 2009 version ran like clockwork- micro managed down to the last detail by a legion of FIFA event underlings.
After watching the draw on TV, Miro and I went down to the launch of the official World Cup ball at a sports store in Central Wellington.It was a fairly strange event with a little portable pitch set up inside the store- of course Miro wanted to get on and strut his stuff but there seemed to be some sort of Kid's skills competetion going on to promote Ricki Herbert's new Football Academy. Ricki Herbert was there signing shirts and balls, and he seemed pretty relaxed after the draw. He was constantly taking calls from his assistant Brian Turner, who was at the draw over in SA, and the media looking for a soundbite or two.
The Jabulani ball (An Isizulu word meaning to celebrate) looks as plastic as ten dollar ball from a discount toy store, but I bet it handles like a dream. I would dearly love to take one to the park for a punt or two. Retailing at $200 plus NZD and with only 500 in the country I doubt that I'll be kicking one around Martin Luckie Park anytime soon.
I bought Miro a mini Jabulani ball for xmas, and got Ricki to sign it. It is the perfect size for his little feet to dribble: